After gaining international acclaim with his Cannes prize-winning family drama “Harmonium,” Japanese director Kōji Fukada returned with “A Girl Missing,” reuniting with actress Mariko Tsutsui for a slow-burning mystery thriller which premiered at Locarno Film Festival last year before going on to play at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival. And now, the film’s (virtual) release approaches this Friday July 31st. 

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In “Harmonium”, Mariko played a woman whose life was destroyed by tragic circumstances beyond her control. In “A Girl Missing” it appears that Tsutsui is working in a similar mode, playing someone before and after a significant time jump with plenty of misery in between. 

The film follows two timelines, both focused on Mariko’s character, named Ichiko. In one, she works as a home nurse for a family, but one of their granddaughters goes missing and her own nephew may be the one responsible. In the other timeline, she forms a relationship with a younger hairdresser. 

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In this slow-burning thriller, also scripted by Fukada, Ichiko (Harmonium’s Mariko Tsutsui) works as a home-care nurse to the elderly matriarch of the Oisho family — long enough to feel like part of the family.  She’s closest to the eldest sister, Motoko (Mikako Ichikawa), who’s studying to follow in Ichiko’s footsteps. However, their happy routine is disrupted when Motoko’s sister, Saki (Miyu Ogawa), is abducted. The girl is eventually returned, but it’s discovered that her kidnapper was Ichiko’s nephew – a fact that Motoko insists they keep between them. It’s this shared secret that forges an even closer bond between the two, yielding further confessions — some of which may be turned into weapons.

“A Girl Missing” stars Mikako Ichikawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Hisako Ookata, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, and Miyu Ogawa. The film will premiere on Virtual Cinemas this Friday, July 31st.